Director: Goro Miyazaki
Original Release: 2006
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Tales from Earthsea, based on the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin, was the directorial debut for Goro Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. The hero Arren is an unusual one (more on that in a bit). Having committed a horrible crime, he runs away from his castle home. A wizard named Sparrowhawk saves his life and takes him under wing (so to speak). After more misadventures, the two make their way to the farm home of Tenar. They are pursued by slavers employed by an evil wizard, Lord Cob.
The film has received mixed reviews, both domestically in Japan and internationally. Le Guin herself was displeased with the film as Miyazaki changed much of her original story. The narrative is complicated - not exactly unusual for either Le Guin or Studio Ghibli - and can be difficult to follow.
However, the movie is generally praised, even in poor reviews, for its visual presentation. Most impressive to me is the use of light, not something one normally considers in regards to an animated film. In general, I think Ghibli is at its best with landscapes and Tales from Earthsea is extraordinary. If you look at a hillside on a sunny day in the real world, its color is vivid, though hardly uniform. Animation rarely reflects such subtle shading but Earthsea does so marvelously. Furthermore, much of the story is set at either dawn or dusk. Shadows lengthen and colors deepen accordingly. I have often perceived Impressionist influence, Monet especially, on the art of Ghibli in its landscapes. Monet himself did numerous studies of the effect of light at different times of the day and the year. He, of course, was in turn influenced by the Japanese artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. All comes full circle.
Arren's crime is patricide. He kills his father, the king, and steals his sword. This is difficult to reconcile with his generally sympathetic character. Arren's moral ambiguity is explored thoroughly late in the story, though it is unclear whether or not he was driven to the crime by outside sorcery or by his own internal conflict. At the end of the film, he heads home to accept responsibility for his crime.
***END OF SPOILER***
- The film was rated PG-13 in the US for violence.